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Leisure, staycation business, weddings, social events will lead the way for hotels: Sylvain Laroche, ibis & ibis Styles, India

Increased travel within the country for vacations, staycations and short breaks has proved to be a key driver for the industry in the last few months, says Sylvain Laroche, Director of Operations, ibis & ibis Styles, India.

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The pandemic crisis may have changed the face of the hospitality and travel industry forever. While the business might have been down for several months, innovation in the sector is already underway. Hygiene, business models, and hospitality tech are being reviewed and revamped around the world. This has led to a significant shift in attitudes which will be affected in almost every area of hospitality, from technology to food and beverage.

In an interview with BW Applause & Everything Experiential, Sylvain Laroche, Director of Operations, ibis & ibis Styles, India shared the post-pandemic scenario of the hospitality industry, various initiatives of ibis, domestic travel trends and more.

How will the overall experience change for Indian hotels post-pandemic?

Owing to the pandemic, businesses across the world have witnessed a change in consumer behaviour including the hotels in India. Staycations and workations have emerged as the latest trends as people are looking for ways to break free from the months of restrictions. Hotels are capitalising on the current trend for staycations by rolling out attractive staycation and daycation packages.

We have adapted as per the evolving expectations of our consumers and have integrated technology in our services and offerings to regain and rebuild the trust of travellers. All communications are now redirected to the virtual world i.e through emails, QR codes, digital posters and guests are encouraged to complete all procedures online. At ibis, we are doing everything possible to provide our guests with a positive and safe experience.

What are the lessons that the hospitality industry has learnt from one of the toughest years for the travel/tourism industry?

The hospitality industry has been one of the worst affected industries, but every cloud has a silver lining. The downtime has given us time to re-imagine and re-engineer every process through integration and the enhanced use of technology. Besides, it has also given us the time to upskill our teams through training to ensure efficiency. It has been our endeavour to balance the ability to demonstrate heartening levels of warmth and personalised care, the very core of what hospitality is about. The agility, adaptability and flexibility of the team have brought success to the brand all over the world and it has contributed to the ‘personal touch’ of the guest experience that we deliver. It is important to remember that the hospitality industry is about making people feel warm and welcome. Despite the current situation, we urge our staff that they mustn’t forget to greet our guests with a smile, even if it is from behind a mask.

What are the various initiatives that ibis led in 2020 to continue building trust of visitors and tourists?

ibis is a smart economy brand from the Accor stable, and has always prioritized the safety of its guests and employees and have always had high standards of hygiene and cleanliness all over the world. In addition, all 19 ibis hotels across 13 cities received the ALLSAFE label in 2020 which ensures the highest standard of safety protocols to assure our guests and reinstate their trust in travel.

As a leading smart economy hotel brand in the world, we prioritize customer-centric value add-ons over discounts/deals. Over the last year, the world around us changed rapidly and hotels have had to adapt and become more thoughtful in the way they do things. In the ‘new now’ brands are creating meaningful offers which speak to the needs of guests and will lead the way to recovery.

We also wanted to bring some of our experiences and services to our guests by offering food delivery and takeaway options from our hotels, laundry services from hotel as well as offering our hotel spaces as safe, alternative workspaces. Additionally, we expanded our strategic partnerships with airlines and travel industry to offer best value to our guests.

What are your thoughts on domestic travel trends for the upcoming year? How is ibis prepared to take on the same?

India’s domestic tourism market is strong, which will continue to be a key factor in the industry’s recovery. Increased travel within the country for vacations, staycations and short breaks has proved to be a key driver for the industry in the last few months. Currently, travellers prefer places easily accessible through roads and weekend destinations have witnessed larger footfall. In the last few months, many travel trends have gained popularity - demand for hospitality options closer to home, less crowded destinations, wellness retreats, offbeat or experiential trips among others.

ibis hotels have attractive staycation and daycation packages with personalized, innovative and curated inclusions. Guests can now enjoy the benefits of our hotels in the comfort of their homes as we have adapted to the new normal with full flexibility, ease and convenience. While adhering to all the safety measure, few of our hotels are offering services like chef on call, private movie screening, laundry services, storage and parking facilities as well.

How long do you think it will take for the hospitality industry to stabilise?

India’s economic activity showed signs of stabilising in November, even as concerns of fresh virus outbreaks and a new strain in the UK mount amid news of vaccines fuelling hope. Major hotel chains are introducing staycation offers where guests can choose from a host of curated experiences, within the hotel. India’s travel and tourism industry has huge growth potential. With restricted international travel, I believe leisure, staycation business, wedding and social events will continue to lead the way for hotels.

What is your take on the future of hospitality-2021 and beyond?

With the new normal where novel trends and technologies have emerged and created a major shift in the industry, things have taken a different turn. In this modern era of tourism, health and hygiene has indeed played a crucial role. This pandemic has provided India an opportunity to take the lead in regional tourism, a key driver. There is immense potential to promote India as the unique destination for wellness, Ayurveda, yoga as well as adventure.

We are also witnessing the rise of the sensitive traveller, who respects his eco-system and seeks sustainable travel experiences. Trends such as slow travel- allowing one to experience a destination at a leisurely pace while appreciating the local heritage are becoming the new norm. While safety and hygiene will be determinant for people planning their travel, understanding local trends, offering personalized services and experiences will play a key role for any hotel brand to set itself apart.



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